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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — State employees will notice a boost in their paychecks as soon as next month after the governor signed off Thursday on a multi-billion-dollar budget. 

Almost half of that $4.5 billion budget is going to schools along. It also fully funds Missouri’s Medicaid program for the rest of 2022 and includes the money to give all 50,000 state workers a pay raise. 

“We were supposed to get this done before Feb. 1,” said Rep. Peter Merideth (D-St. Louis) said. “Let’s get it done today.”

The first bill signed by the governor this year, an emergency mid-year budget which includes a 5.5% cost of living adjustment for all state employees. 

“Right now, we are racing to retain employees,” Sen. Dan Hegeman, R-Cosby, said. “If we can get it in faster now, then maybe we will retain employees that we were just losing to the market because we weren’t at the market rate.”

Missouri has the lowest-paid state workers in the nation, which is why Gov. Mike Parson recommended a 5.5% cost of living adjustment and $15 an hour minimum pay.

The House passed the legislation earlier this month. Their version only wanted to give $15 an hour to workers in direct care positions. Over in the Senate, members want to allow departments to decide how much an employee makes, which is what ended up passing. 

“I mean you’re either going to be competitive in the market or you’re not going to find people to work,” said Senate Minority Leader John Rizzo (D-Independence). “It’s a long-overdue pay raise for state employees.”

Unlike the governor’s proposal, lawmakers passed a bill without a minimum pay amount, like the $15 Parson requested, but includes the millions of dollars needed for agencies to achieve that. Instead, it will be left up to the individual departments. 

“It’s not my intention that state government should place the state workforce at an unfair competitive advantage over private employers,” said Rep. Cody Smith (R-Carthage). “It enables them through the appropriations process to make the necessary adjustments as needed.”

Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe had previously told the House Budget Committee he’s seen state workers at grocery stores in Jefferson City paying with food stamps.

State budget director Dan Haug previously told the committee there are more than 4,000 job openings across state government. Those working for the state received a 2% raise at the start of the year, but Parson said the only way to be competitive is with a higher wage.

Haug also told the committee last month, across all state departments, the turnover rate is 26%. He said the industry standard is 10%.

The minimum wage for private employers in Missouri in 2022 is $11.15, up from $10.21 last year. Until 2023, the state’s minimum wage will increase by 85 cents.

Over the summer, the governor vetoed $2.1 million that was supposed to go to increasing the salaries of workers in the Children’s Division under the Missouri Department of Social Services. In his veto letter, Parson said lawmakers should not single out one specific agency for a pay raise.

According to Missouri’s Department of Transportation (MoDOT) website, there are dozens of job openings. Before the start of winter, MoDOT warned drivers to be patient during winter weather because the department was short on employees to clear roads.

The department’s director, Patrick McKenna, said in an interview last fall, MoDOT needs 200 to 300 seasonal workers for winter months, but they are nowhere near that.

House Bill 3014, which totals around $5 billion, also includes roughly $2 billion for schools and another billion for the state’s Medicaid program. If the money was not allocated by March 24, the state could have lost that federal money. 

“We heard from schools yesterday that ran out of their authority on money for food for meals at school,” Merideth said. “They need this money and they needed it yesterday.”

What caused some debate on the Senate floor Wednesday night came with a line item in the budget. No money is allocated for facilities like Planned Parenthood to provide services to Missourians on Medicaid. 

“Even though this state has already, for all intense purpose, absolutely quit funding abortion services, the fact that we are now moving on to reproductive health services including now defunding people who want their access to birth control, where does that end up?,” said Sen. Jill Schupp (D-Creve Coeur). “Where does that take us?”

The state has previously been to court on a similar issue and the judges ruled in favor of Planned Parenthood. The chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee said he is guessing it will go back to court. 

“In my mind, the courts gave us contradictory information and ways to address this and we’re once again trying to show the will of the people expressed through their elected senators and representatives that they don’t want taxpayer dollars going to organizations that support or do abortion services.”

Planned Parenthood said Thursday after the bill passed it would continue to provide services to Medicaid patients until the Missouri Department of Social Services (DSS) blocks them.

In a statement, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri said: “To every Medicaid patient in Missouri: nothing changes. Planned Parenthood’s doors are open, and we will care for you regardless of your ability to pay. To Gov. Parson: your next move could land you in court. Again.”

This makes the fourth state following Arkansas, Mississippi, and Texas to “defund” Planned Parenthood, the organization said. 

Rizzo said Democrats made their voices heard but the overall package had top priorities for them. 

“Even though there is a core value in there we disagree with, we do believe the courts will throw it out and the other things are very important to us too,” Rizzo said. “I’m struggling to find which one of those has not been a Democratic priority for the last ten years.”

The budget totals more than $4.5 billion which includes $401 million in general revenue, $4.1 billion in federal funds, and $45 million in other funds. Here’s a look at the breakdown: 

  • A statewide pay plan for state team members, including a 5.5 percent cost of living adjustment 
  • $1.9 billion for distribution to local public school districts
  • Nearly $100 million for distribution to non-public schools
  • $444 million for child care services
  • $219 million for school food programs
  • Funding for MO HealthNet, including funding to ensure eligibility re-determinations are done in a timely manner

Shortly after passed by both the House and Senate, Parson signed the budget into law Thursday afternoon.
“This bill not only gives our dedicated state team members a long-overdue pay increase but also appropriates critical funding to our K-12 schools and child-care system,” Parson said in a press release. “We thank the General Assembly for working to get this important piece of legislation passed and to my desk.”

State employees could see that raise as soon as their first March paycheck.